It was a watershed moment in the ISPAs, the ISP industry's annual award ceremony. An official from the Home Office, which is regularly nominated for the Internet Villain, turned up to collect the department's prize.
Ironically, the official, Simon Watkin, had been nominated for the Internet Hero award -- which he failed to win. Nevertheless his appearance, said one attendee from a major ISP, demonstrated a desire to continue his department's new-found rapport with the industry.
On collecting the Internet Villain award Watkin, who had been nominated for the opposite honour for his work trying to sort out problems with data retention proposals and his for his work liasing with the industry, said: "Being nominated for Internet Hero Award and collecting the Internet Villain Award, shows the difficulty in helping you get on with business on the Internet while making sure it is a safe place to do business." It was Watkin who, in an unusual announcement at an ISPevent last December announced that the Home Office made a mistake in how it presented draft legislation that would give a wide range of public authorities access to communications data.
Several attendees at the awards said they admired Watkin for turning up to collect the most unwanted prize in the Internet industry's calendar. Those who thought his only motive in attending was a hope of picking up the Internet Hero prize were proved wrong when Watkin asked for last year's Internet Villain award on behalf of the department, "which we're owed." Nobody from the Home Office appeared on stage at last year's ISPAs to collect the infamous award.
However, on collecting his award, Watkin did say: "I can go back to the office and pretend this is the Hero award, until (my colleagues) read the stories online in the morning."
Winning the Internet Villain award, the Home Office saw off competitors such as the Recording Industry Association of America, telecoms analysts, BBC Watchdog and, most unpopular of all judging by the response from the audience, Oftel.